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Smartphone Slowdown, 5GHz, Mirantis, Sprint, 3UK/O2 - Telco 2.0 News Review

A wet blanket for smartphone shipments; iPhone 5SE; Ericsson warns on m-money; Microsoft’s outstanding apps

IDC reckons the glory days of smartphone shipments rising 10+% annually are over. Western Europe, North America, and China are already under the mark, whereas South-East Asia, India, Africa, and Indonesia are going great guns. That of course means that the device mix is skewing cheaper, with ASP expected to drop from $295 last year to $237 in 2020.

GfK, meanwhile, offers a short-term take, saying that volumes were up 7% globally in 2015 but ASP fell enough that the size of the market by value was flat.

The breakdown is interesting - the dramatic recession in Brazil is clearly a key driver, as both volume and pricing have fallen off a cliff in Latin America. Around the world, the downward pressure on price is pretty clear. China, however, is seeing a move upmarket, as prices are rising faster than volumes, the only market where this is true.

Apple is cueing up its next product launch. Interestingly, IDC reckons its shipments will return to growth next year as its various trade-in and other incentives bite. The iPhone 5SE looks carefully targeted at (Chinese?) upgraders, as it packs most of the 6/6S feature set into a 4S/5 form factor and presumably price point.

Here’s a review of the Raspberry Pi 3. Here’s a review of gaming hardware specialist Razer’s effort at a productivity laptop: looks cool, fast as a thief, nice screen, terrible battery life.

Last week we heard that Ericsson has radically cut back its forecasts for IoT devices. This week, they brought out the wet blanket again. Everyone in the industry loves emerging-market mobile money, but it turns out a surprisingly large majority of its customers are accessing it via an agent rather than a phone. An optimist might take this to mean that there’s more scope for growth, a pessimist that the industry doesn’t really yet understand the money business that well.

Nick Hunn offers a checkpoint on NB-IoT, LTE-M as was, and points out that a lot of the operators think it will need a SIM, and hence a billing system. Satellite for the IoT; probably not good news for MNOs, as the product described is a VSAT-based gateway for a capillary network of sensors (or whatever).

ZDNet points out again that Microsoft’s suite of Android apps is strong and getting stronger, with rich features, outstanding design, quick update cycles, and good ideas. Having reviewed a complicated document on the run the other day, we can only agree.

Vodafone.it goes 1Gbps; Ericsson spills the 5GHz beans; ZTE banned from US; AT&T on 5G

The march to the gigabit goes on. Vodafone Italy announces its trials, 1.2Gbps downlink, using Huawei kit (as always at that opco) and “all available frequencies”. The big question there is whether they’ve got the backhaul - a major finding of our all-new 4G Global Rollout Analysis Executive Briefing is that Vodafone’s European opcos are still held back by their lack of fibre backhaul. No Vodafone property makes the cut into the top-performing operators in this chart:

4G-figure1.pngThe announcement has something to say about that too - they’re also trialling 10Gpbs XG-PON in their fixed operation. The question is how well the fibre distribution and mobile backhaul networks line up.

“All available frequencies” - that means what, precisely? The worst-kept secret at MWC was probably that it very much includes the unlicensed bands, whether via LTE-U, LTE-LAA, LWA, or MuLTEFire. Ericsson told FierceWireless as much, saying that you’ll need at least 60MHz of spectrum, something very few operators can say without helping themselves to the 5GHz band.

They also said they expect the first really serious 1Gbps LTE deployments to come from North American operators swapping out copper, which makes this story from January rather interesting even if it’s far from clear what they’re up to. Here’s a bit of detail about Verizon and Samsung’s 28GHz 5G testing.

Hutchison’s Austrian opco has signed up for ZTE’s “pre-5G”, saying they expect to boost speeds between 4-6x those achieved on LTE across 6,000 eNode-Bs. Ironically, ZTE has just been banned from the US for breaching sanctions on Iran.

In other vendor news, the GSA, aka the vendors’ club, has started a spectrum working group. The point seems to be to put pressure on the WRC to hurry up with 5G coordination - the working group consists of the Early 5G Gang, Nokia, Ericsson, Intel, and Qualcomm, plus Huawei.

Comcast’s 2Gbps service is FTTH, and it’s pretty dear. Not surprising, seeing as it’s basically a drop from the metro-network. That said, it’s permitted them to get a substantial tax cut in Oregon via a provision intended to attract Google Fiber.

Google Fiber, meanwhile, has signed up to be the anchor tenant on Huntsville’s munifibre network, the first deal of the kind it did.

One of Britain’s business lobbies wants a plan for 10Gbps everywhere. Benoit Felten is cautiously positive about OFCOM’s decisions on Openreach, and points out that everything now hinges on that database of ducts. Scaling and scoping a UK FTTH build - a huge variable will be whether, and how, the copper network shuts down.

Here’s a good interview with AT&T SVP of wireless network architecture, Tom Keathley, on 5G, and a nice presentation on 5G network architecture - two levels of cloud processing, linked by fibre rings, linked to you by wireless.

Mirantis 8 is out; OpenEPC for the edge; ARM in the cloud; HPE results

Speaking of AT&T, the OpenStack startup they support, Mirantis, just announced version 8 of its OpenStack distribution, codenamed Liberty. The point here is that Liberty is meant to be roughly equivalent to a stock Android ROM, without any customisations to fit this or that vendor’s hardware, SDN, or orchestration setup. Also, it’s meant to be rather like Red Hat Enterprise Linux, heavily tested and fireproofed.

The FOKUS group at the Fraunhofer Institute has long been doing good work by providing open-source reference versions of key telecoms systems. Now they have a spinoff company, Core Network Dynamics, that sells their OpenEPC software as a packaged testbed for NFV systems. Specifically, they’re keen on bundling the whole virtualised EPC onto edge devices.

Interesting product: a high density, ARM v8-based server optimised for NFV and edge computing applications.

Huawei is beginning to make its own ARM-based chips, and the first application is - unusually - a server. Here’s a walkthrough of running Docker on one.

Here’s a report back on ARM itself’s announcements at MWC. We didn’t get to the stand ourselves, but it’s certainly interesting that the iconic mobile chipmaker is mostly interested in 5G modems, security for the IoT, and “flexible, distributed cloud”.

The next iteration of OPNFV is out.

HP Enterprise has Q1 numbers and they’re not bad. Despite all the talk, though, it’s not machine learning, consulting, or other magic that did it - it’s servers and network switches, a handy reminder that the cloud is made of nothing else.

Salesforce was down in Western Europe.

If you ask Amazon Web Services nicely, they’ll send you all your data. In a truck. They’ve offered data ingestion via physical media for some time, but now they will do the opposite too.

An online gaming company takes control of its WAN. This is being sold as an SDN use-case, but it’s actually very much like just graduating to having an AS number and getting BGP peering set up.

Sprint brings back device subsidy, hocks the network; AT&T’s Stankey on DirecTV; data pricing; T-Mobile not for sale, again

Remember when device leasing was the new thing? Sprint has just brought back device subsidies on service contracts. If you want a new iPhone 6S for a lower downpayment, you can choose to take a bigger bundle on a 2-year contract. This may be a response to last week’s wave of scrutiny on its accounts. Meanwhile, the carrier is pushing ahead with a scheme to start a new operating subsidiary that would own the network and spectrum licences, and borrow on their security, and then advance the holding company the cash. Do we remember something not so good happening with a structure like that back when they were called special-purpose vehicles?

VZW reckons it has plenty of spectrum, won’t start doing unlimited data again, and will use 5G as an “add-on” to LTE, just like the Early 5G Gang’s roadmap from 3GPP RAN says. They have also given some detail of their content investments.

An interesting quote from AT&T’s John Stankey. “We didn’t buy DirecTV because we love satellite as a distribution medium”. Instead, the three new Internet-only TV options the carrier is pushing under that brand are aimed at “cord-cutters”, the “credit-challenged”, and “those who live transient lifestyles”. That said, he wants a “common middleware” between their TV platforms.

Back when we did the first Telco 2.0 Index project in 2012, AT&T had just closed its online advertising operation. Now it’s opening a new one, offering programmatic ads on the DirecTV and U-Verse platforms, competing with DISH’s similar ad exchange.

MVNO Boost Mobile announces new data plans. They’re mostly of interest for what they say about Sprint and US-wide data pricing, as Boost is offering a big discount for anyone who switches from the other three nationals. This gimme takes the form of a big bulk discount; on the smallest bundle, data costs $6/GB, on the biggest, $2.8/GB. For reference, T-Mobile SIM-only plans sell data at $5/GB whatever the volume, suggesting that Sprint is in line or a hair dearer.

A peering dispute has broken out between Google and Cogent. Nothing new, but this one involves IPv6 connectivity only, and it’s Google that pulled the plug.

And Deutsche Telekom looks at selling T-Mo, again, and thinks….maybe next year. Ironically, this puts the proposed sale back until after the 600MHz auction, so if you believe they’ll ever sell, you’ve got to imagine they’ll spend a boatload of money on spectrum and then walk away.

Crunch day for 3UK/O2; impact of Voda/Ziggy; Vivendi after TI CEO; Xavier Niel in Singapore; Telkom Indonesia FY

By the time you read this, Hutchison execs will have finished their crunch meeting with the Euro-regulators. Telefonica, BT, Vodafone, Sky, Virgin Media, and TalkTalk are invited too. It’s the Heads of the Six Families, come to decide who gets a piece of the business.

A survey suggests the combination of Vodafone NL and Ziggo is likely to win business customers over, but prices might go up. The record of mobile-cable mergers suggests that’s not far wrong.

Vivendi’s stake in Telecom Italia is up to 23.8%. Under Italian law, once they hit 25% they have to either bid or refuse to bid. However, they seem to be trying to stay under the radar and replace the CEO without actually bidding. The big idea is apparently to sell TIM Brasil and be “Southern Europe-focused”. All right then. Relatedly, the contentious sale of Telecom Argentina has been signed off by the regulator.

Orange would like you to know it’s investing €15bn in fibre and 4G. Again. This was announced before MWC and now it’s been announced again.

MyRepublic, the proposed 4th MNO in Singapore, is one of Xavier Niel’s projects, and it looks like he intends to run the Free Mobile script again. His manager on the ground says they’ll bring back unlimited data plans, and therefore get to 9% share within 5 years and profitability within 3 years. The key to this is using the same fibre network for fixed and mobile broadband. They reckon it will cost only $214m to build. Important detail: the spectrum reserved for new entrants includes 60MHz in the 900MHz and 2300MHz bands.

Thai new entrant Jas Mobile still hasn’t paid the licence fee.

Telkom Indonesia’s profits are up 7% year-on-year and they added 17,869 new cell sites, 1,761 of which are 4G, plus another million FTTH homes.

MTN has seen a sharp drop in its net profits, between the Nigerian fine and problems like hyperinflation in South Sudan.

T-Mo is 50% VoLTE; all-German cloud voice; new Alexa gadgets; beamforming with sound

T-Mobile USA’s CFO, Braxton Carter, is usually surprisingly informative about their network for a CFO. On this occasion, he says half the voice calls at T-Mo are now on VoLTE, whether over LTE or WiFi. Also, they’re in the process of refarming their GSM spectrum for LTE.

The owners, back at DTAG, have launched a cloud voice product with a guarantee that everything stays in Germany. Speaking of cloud voice, here’s a useful checklist of requirements for your LAN before you try to use it or, God help us, offer it.

Amazon has some more devices for its Alexa voice-UX product, including an additional speaker-mic (the Dot) and a mobile device (the Tap).

SoundHound is a new app that offers an independent alternative to Cortana, Siri, and OK Google.

Twilio has a tutorial on building video chat apps for iOS.

And this is exciting, another one from the “stuff we missed at MWC” file. Beamforming audio that follows you around the room so it doesn’t bother anyone else.

Facebook veep recommends Brazilian jails to anyone; Apple vs FBI; Amazon drops, brings back crypto; real pirates

The Facebook vice-president who spent 24 hours in a Brazilian jail last week says the jailers treated him with respect and it won’t change the company’s plans in Brazil. They were trying to force him to turn over WhatsApp messages. Being end-to-end encrypted, this was impossible. Also, a US court refused to make them give Kazakhstan information about political dissidents.

The San Bernadino County district attorney won’t give up so easily. In the Apple vs FBI case, he demanded access to the famous iPhone in case it contained a hypothetical “lying dormant cyber pathogen”, and is now arguing that Apple is the one violating the constitution (of California). A judge turned him down, and Apple’s SVP of software engineering is now trying a bit of hyperbole of his own, threatening the security of basically everything if he doesn’t get his way.

Here’s the world’s first Mac ransomware.

Amazon decided to delete full disk encryption from its Fire OS devices because “nobody used it”. Turns out, some people do care, and they made their point.

Real pirates hacked a shipping company’s web server to find out which ships were carrying valuable cargo.

A new and disturbing hardware attack on mobile phones.

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